Byline: Francis N. Tolentino
VISIT the classified ads section of Sunday broadsheets and you will find quarter, half, or even full-page advertisements for Registered Nurses to work abroad. Compensation packages offered by foreign hospitals and health care centers (most of these packages including the opportunity for free review for State Examination and residency) attract the attention of our local nurses and lure them to "nurse away from home," ("Cynics: Nursing Away from Home" - September 16, 2004).
I don't wonder why nurses can't resist the offer. What's $200 per month (roughly around R11,200) local nurse pay compared to as much $4,000 (R224,000) monthly salary abroad, depending on the nurse's qualifications? And no wonder, statistics of nurses (and doctors turned nurses) migration continue to scale up every year. Records of the National Institute of Health (NIH) of the University of the Philippines declared that "the Philippines is the number one exporter of nurses and the number two exporter of doctors" (October 2004), this being attributed to Filipino nurses having been "trained in a curriculum modeled on that of American nursing schools. They speak English. and of course, as members of a 'model minority,' they are readily accepted as quiet, smart, and hardworking. In short, it's not hard for them to fit in." ("Recruiting Foreign Nurses to Cover Staffing Shortfalls is Local Hospitals Latest Healthcare Band-Aid. But the Crisis Only Grows" by Leyla Kokmen). According to statistics from the Alliance of Health Workers, 51,850 nurses flew to work abroad from 2000 to 2003 and 5,000 doctors also went abroad (from 2000-2004) to work as nurses. The numbers of health care professionals leaving the country continues to escalate at a disturbing rate in the past two years.
According to a study conducted by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Bureau of Health Professionals in July, 2002, the United States would be in need of 810,000 nurses by the year 2020. With this projection and with other countries also in need of health care providers (Japan will soon open its doors to Filipino nurses), we are heading towards a scary national health status in the years ahead if the government would not do anything about it. Consequences for the Philippine health care system, should this migration trend continue, seem obvious now. The closure of local hospitals, especially in the provinces and remote regions of the country due to lack of health care personnel, is just the beginning of a soon-to-be national health care crisis. A country without domestic doctors, nurses, and caregivers to treat and attend to the sick and the elderly is an extremely dreadful scenario to imagine.
On the other hand, the shortage of nurses and doctors in the country not only becomes detrimental to the Philippine health care system, but to the future of Philippine nursing and medical schools as well. These same problems beset Turlock (a city in Stanislaus County of Central California) where there are young people interested to pursue a career in health work but are disheartened by a shortage of nurse educators. The same situation is happening here in our country as there is a shortage of educators with Master's Degrees in Nursing. When will the government make its compensation package competitive enough to retain or at least make these nurses and doctors think twice before they grab opportunities abroad? It should be remembered that Section 2 of Republic Act No. …